More than 130 Alabama public school superintendents received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) by Nov. 1 asking the school districts to report any student who is turned away from school, other than for a disciplinary problem.
The letters request records of enrollment by race and lists of students who have withdrawn since the beginning of the year, broken down by race, national origin, and whether they are classified as English Language Learners. DOJ also wants a list of unexplained absences since Alabama's draconian immigration law took effect on Sept. 27.
"(Superintendents) want to know if this is part of collection of data for the Justice Department's case against the state, or if the Justice Department is collecting information to develop actions against school systems," said Eric Mackey, director of School Superintendents of Alabama.
Section 28(a) of Alabama's new immigration law took unequivocal action to prevent undocumented children and U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents from attending school.
Section 28(a) requires "[e]very public elementary and secondary school ..., at the time of enrollment in kindergarten or any grade in such school, shall determine whether the student enrolling in public school was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child of an alien not lawfully present in the United States[.]" It requires educators and teachers to presume that the student is an alien unlawfully present in the United States if the student cannot produce proof of lawful presence within 30 days.
While it is true that the cost of public elementary and secondary school to educate unlawfully present children or the children of unlawfully present alien parents is the single biggest cost of illegal immigration, it is also true that states are required to educate these children in accordance with federal law. To fail to do so will very likely cost the state of Alabama Department of Education, which funds local school boards, around $100 million. My source is the FY2011 Fiscal Stabilization Fund that comes not from Alabamians' tax money, but from the federal government. The feds could pull the money out if Alabama educators and teachers are deemed to be violating federal education policy.
The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit blocked section 28, pending the DOJ's appeal of a U.S. district court judge rulling, allowing section 28 to go into effect.